Photography by Nicole Duplantis/Clothing provided by babyGap
Your toddler is now officially closer to two than one, with all the cool milestones, new words, goofy energy and hardcore devotion to favourite stuff to prove it. There are days when they can make your emotions swerve all over the place, hour to hour or even minute to minute: You’re so proud of all their mad new skills, impressed by how you can practically see all the connections forming in their brain and frustrated by how to deal with such an intense little personality. Fortunately, your toddler is also likely to make you crack up by busting out a killer dance move or give you a sticky kiss and cuddle at just the right time. You do you, kiddo.
Get ready for the toddler workout: About six months after they’ve learned to walk, toddlers start to run, and then climb and dance… That means you will, too! They will also begin to use the small muscles in their hands with more control, leading to everything from using a paintbrush and stacking blocks to throwing a ball and turning the pages of a board book one at a time. Break out the sand and water toys, too, as your little will become super interested in pouring, measuring and dumping over and over again. Now where did you put all those old towels?
At 19 months, your babe will continue to fine-tune all the amazing new milestones they’ve been working on. One of these days, you’ll notice a huge jump in language skills. They will start to be able to understand two-step sentences like “Please get the truck and bring it here” (whether or not they listen to that request is entirely up to your toddler!) and will soon understand up to 10 times as many words as they say. Their literacy skills will begin to build, too, as your toddler pretends to read to dolls and stuffed animals, name familiar pictures or fill in easy words (we bet you can recite certain books by heart after reading them 6,489 times).
Around this time, toddlers are figuring out the big world around them and starting to see themselves as individuals, not part of mom and dad. This means that they’ll want to see and touch just about everything, so give them safe places to explore and gain confidence. And though you’ve babyproofed your place, you can’t turn your house into a foam rubber palace, no matter how much your toddler would think it was the bomb. Instead, redirect them away from whatever isn’t safe—if they’re heading for the lamp cord yet again, say “Let’s knock over the stacking cups” (rinse and repeat).
Another way that the whole separate-person thing shows up is in a new intense preference for dad. The daddy phase can kick in when your toddler begins to realize that there are other people in the world around them, not just their primary caregiver (which is often mama at this age), so dada becomes this way-cool dude. Not surprisingly, this can make mom feel sad and rejected (or, you know, #sorrynotsorry for the chance to take a long bath). Don’t fight it; instead, be patient and try some tickling, jokes or cuddling games to help natural oxytocin (aka “the love drug”) keep your bond strong.
Toddlers need about 11 to 14 hours of sleep each day, including naptime. Not wanting to head to bed is pretty common—after all, toddler life is so freakin’ busy and interesting—but a soothing, consistent bedtime routine with a bath, book and well-worn lovey will help them wind down. They should also be sleeping through the night or able to self-soothe when they do wake up. To help them learn how to self-soothe (so that you’re not the one who is up several times a night to give a back rub or get a drink of water!), talk about cuddling a stuffie, stroking a blankie or humming to themselves.
Like sleep, food can be a power struggle, and that’s not how you want to spend your time. Your job is to provide a mix of healthy foods and snacks and decide when and where to eat, and your toddler’s job is to decide how much they will eat (if at all—food is also for smearing into hair, you know). Portions can be confusing, too, but here are some ideas.
Breakfast: ⅓ cup cereal, ½ cup homogenized milk, ¼ cup cut-up fruit Snack: ¼ cup yogurt Lunch: ¼ cup grated veggies, ¼ pita sliced up, 1 egg, ½ cup homogenized milk Snack: ½ slice bread with melted cheese Dinner: ¼ cup pasta, ¼ cup tomato sauce, 1 oz chicken cut up, ½ cup homogenized milk
Interacting with other toddlers can be, well , “hands on” at this stage, too. Toddler brains are not yet wired for sharing, empathy and taking turns because they’re both living in the moment and super-protective of “their” foam block pieces. That can mean biting, hitting and other aggressive stuff, which is normal but not something you can ignore. Instead, draw on all the patience you have and respond to the chomp or whack immediately by saying no, then turn your attention to the other kid so your toddler knows that this isn’t a good way to seek attention or get their way. Then take your warrior to the sidelines for a bit and tell them they can go back to the fun when they’re ready to play again without hurting people.
No doubt about it, dealing with your own misbehaving child is tough. An even tougher call: What do you do when someone else’s kid is the playground outlaw? Would you say something if the behaviour is dangerous or just annoying, like hogging the monkey bars? How about if it’s a kid who is a total stranger rather than a family you know from the neighbourhood? The next time things get a little slow at your playgroup, toss this hot topic out for debate and get ready to duck.
Ready for some child-free time out of the house? Awesome! Finding—and keeping—an equally awesome sitter sometimes requires a little more strategy and planning than just hiring the nearest neighbourhood teenager, though (remember reading the Babysitters Club series?). Points to consider to make your family A-list in the world of babysitters: Pay well, be considerate and never, ever steal a sitter from another family—that’s just bad karma. Keep your kid’s personality in mind, too: Do you need someone who is super-energetic to keep up with your daredevil or one with a more mellow, nurturing vibe?
Starting with the ultrasound and then through a gazillion diaper changes, you have seen your toddler’s genitals more times than you can count, right? And sometimes they just want to show them off to the whole wide world. Yes, that’s your kid yelling “Front bum!” at the pool. It’s totally normal for kids to be curious about the human body, whether it’s theirs or someone else’s. Being straightforward right from the start is the best approach. This means that, starting from when your kid can talk (or even before), you should use words like “vagina,” “vulva” and “penis” rather than cute nicknames so that they can tell you or a healthcare provider if there’s an issue. You can also teach your toddler that there are private areas and no one can touch their nipples, genitals, bum or mouth without their permission (clarifying, of course, that baths, diaper changes and doctor visits are fine), and explain that they shouldn’t be touching other people’s private parts either.
All right, admit it: There are some of your kid’s toys that you love even more than they do. There’s just something about the totally cute play kitchen, the teeny tiny sushi kit or the retro toy from your own childhood that you finally get to play with. Go on, we won’t tell if a few of those toys are actually for you.